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Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic

Dante’s Inferno is as devoted to its video game origins as a reality show cast is to the camera phones loitering on Sunset.

2010 Movie. Director: Mike Disa. 88 minutes. Blu-Ray, $34.98. Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Dante's Inferno

Ah, Dante’s Divine Comedy. As a trained Classicist, albeit a Hellenist, I do know Latin Epic poetry.  And Dante’s allegorically Christian reworking of Latin Epic in the Tuscan dialect is as familiar as the grooves of my tsuka. For better or worse, however, Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic isn’t quite the faithful adaptation. Instead of recounting Dante’s spiritual crisis in the 14th century, in which Vergil ultimately aids him through an illuminated necromancy, this epic is all blood and mayhem.

The brain-child of Film Roman and Electronic Arts, Dante’s Inferno is definitely a unique vision, and it comes with some remarkable voice-over talent: Mark Hamill, Victoria Tennant, Vanessa Branch, and Graham McTavish.   

Yes, this is a new Dante. A brave knight of the crusades, he has promised his life and heart to Beatrice, who will only marry him upon his return. However, after years of ideologically compelled killing, Dante returns only to find Beatrice the victim of brutal murder. He only has one choice. He must retrieve her from the inferno of Hell! Enter Vergil, a true epic guide – just ask Ovid, Flaccus, and even Milton.

Okay, as I’ve said again and again, translating a game into a feature-animated flick is a tricky business. You’re usually saddled with tons of action and only the bare bones of anything resembling a well-written script. No, wait a minute. Didn’t I just describe the modus operandi of most Hollywood action films?  Anyway, Dante’s Inferno is as devoted to its video game origins as a reality show cast is to the camera phones loitering on Sunset.

No, there’s no allegory or cultural epic here. And Beatrice, the poster-child of medieval femininity and courtly love, is not the guide of Heaven. Much like the game, there are only nine rings of hell in which to battle the minions of Satan in order to free her from devilish bonds. And this Dante does a damn good job. As soon as he breaches the gates and enters the inferno, this film is all demon slaying.

So, if you can sit back, veg-out, grab a beer, enjoy the supernaturally inscribed epic combat, and marvel at the wonder of Blu-Ray, then Dante’s Inferno is the flick for you. Sorry, there’s no cultural window into the language of medieval Italian literature. This is essentially like paying the game, and then lovingly watching the reply of your exploits over and over.

So yes, it’s quite masturbatory. But definitely in the Catholic sense. There’s some guilt involved. A subsequent confession may be necessary.